Image credit: Transition Town Wivenhoe
With a live webcam of horrific chicken cruelty fresh in my memory, I've been thinking a lot about my own experiences of backyard chicken keeping. While I can't now imagine not having fresh eggs, fertilizer, waste disposal and companionship provided by the ladies in the backyard, I do remember a time when I was incredibly intimidated by the idea of keeping chickens. Won't they smell? (A little.) Aren't they a lot of work? (No.) Won't they get eaten by foxes? (Probably.) A new community group is aiming to leapfrog these objections—providing peer support, expert advice, and networking opportunities for would be chicken keepers. This is Chicken 100. The idea is the brainchild of Transition Town Wivenhoe, in Essex, UK. Chicken 100 will be a community-led initiative to promote backyard chickens. From expert advice, through help to source building materials for coops, to negotiating discounts with suppliers for birds and feed, the idea is to remove the fear from chicken keeping, and to start seeding positive examples of small-scale chicken keeping around the community for others to follow. Plans are even afoot to get a group together to provide labor for building new coops as the project expands. Sensibly, the group plans to start with just 5 households, with a goal of ramping up involvement to at least 100. (Hence the name.)
Of course, the primary goal is to create local, sustainable sources of egg and fertilizer production, but this is also a hugely symbolic and media-friendly project that will help spread the message of food security, resilience and sustainability across the community. Included in the project outline are plans for media outreach and publicity—using something as simple and engaging as chickens to tell a broader story about peak oil, transition and an alternative way of doing things.
I sure wish this had been available in my community when I started out. A few chickens might even have been saved from the local foxes had I known how to build a coop properly. Oh well, you live and learn. (If you are not a chicken.)